Endangered corncrakes bred in captivity for the first time
THE endangered corncrake is being bred in captivity for the first time in Ireland, in a bid to combat the bird's population decline.
The National Parks and Wildlife Service (NPWS) and Irish Grey Partridge Conservation Trust (IGPCT) are working together on the groundbreaking trial in Co Offaly.
Fota Wildlife Park, which has a similar project taking place, is assisting the NPWS and IGPCT in the experimental captive breeding programme.
A pair of eggs were incubated by the Grey Partridge conservation project team in Co Offaly earlier this year. Two chicks were successfully hatched and are now being reared with the help of captive breeding manager Paddy Kelly.
The programme is at a trial stage, and the current captive-bred chicks will not be released into the wild, as they are not part of the Irish corncrake population.
However, the trial is being carried out in the hope that wild Irish corncrakes can be reared in captivity in the future.
NPWS conservation ranger Kieran Buckley said Ireland's corncrakes "are on an extinction trajectory" which needs to be reversed.
He thanked Fota Wildlife Park director Sean McKeown for supplying birds for the Co Offaly experiment.
"The reason why it is taking place is it will be another tool in our management strategy for the recovery of the species," he explained.
Should the programme prove successful, the conservation team will consider taking eggs from wild birds' nests in locations prone to predation, flooding and other threats.
Although corncrakes have two or three clutches each year, a high percentage of their eggs are lost.
While the captive breeding may be helpful in protecting the species, Mr Buckley emphasised the need to tackle issues such as habitat depletion, which are contributing to the corncrake's decline.